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Federal Water Bill Would Allocate $50 Million To Tribal Drinking Water Projects


A bipartisan bill under consideration in the U.S. Senate would invest billions of dollars in updating the nation’s water infrastructure. Among its many provisions, the package would direct funds to Southwestern tribes. KNAU’s Ryan Heinsius reports.

The legislation would reauthorize the Indian Reservation Drinking Water Program. It allocates $50 million a year to 10 tribal drinking water projects through the Environmental Protection Agency. Many reservation residents lack running water. It’s estimated almost a third of the people on the Navajo Nation have to haul it to their homes.

The program is part of the larger Drinking Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Act, which would dedicate $35 billion to a range of initiatives throughout the U.S. 

"At a time when water conservation is so critical, most of Arizona’s drinking water infrastructure is more than 30 years old, and Arizona’s wastewater infrastructure is suffering from a $1.4 billion investment shortfall," said bill cosponsor Democratic Arizona Senator Mark Kelly at a recent committee hearing.

He says amid decades of drought in the Southwest and with a growing population in Arizona, water shortages also threaten the state’s economy. The bill would fund desalination projects, prevent water loss and shore up drinking water systems against climate change, cyber attacks, drought and wildfires.

Ryan joined KNAU's newsroom as executive producer in 2013. He covers a broad range of stories from local, state and tribal politics to education, economy, energy and public lands issues, and frequently interviews internationally known and regional musicians. Ryan is an Edward R. Murrow Award winner and a frequent contributor to NPR.
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